Friday, May 2, 2008

What is "Damage Control" within a Spiritually Abusive System?

Damage Control is a term that was originally coined and used by maritime industries, probably originating in the Merchant Marines or navy, describing emergency measures to prevent the sinking of a ship. The language and theory of management borrowed the term to describe measures that can be taken to contain problems that might threaten a particular project.

Exit Counseling literature refers to the term “damage control” in reference to the measures that manipulative groups or individuals use to maintain “milieu control” within the group. When some undesirable circumstance within the group occurs or when information presents that casts the group in a bad light, the group will take varying measures to keep their followers from seeking out this information or from believing the negative information. Leadership usually employs fear mongering wherein the leadership convinces followers that listening to certain sources of information will place them at great risk or will predispose them to sin. Certain sources or types of information become a threat to the piety of the group, so by classifying certain sources as questionable, group members will naturally avoid such risks. This can be strongly enhanced with social mentoring so that followers understand exactly what they are permitted to discuss or consider, based upon the connotation that the group gives the source.

Sometimes, the unspoken rules of the group also convey the message that it is improper to ask questions about abuses within the group so as to not “sow discord among the brethren.” Contacting former, disgruntled members may be discouraged either non-formally through the unwritten and “understood” rules of the group that are subtly conveyed, or the leadership may confabulate stories about the ex-members to discourage anyone in the group from contacting them. (This would be an ad hominem tactic of “poisoning the well.”) Another formal example of this can be seen in groups like the Boston Movement of the International Church of Christ or the Jehovah’s Witnesses wherein former members are anathemized (or considered apostate and treated like publicans) so that all contact with them is formally forbidden by the organization.

This brings to mind a very recent comment that I read on another blog:

This is also a good reminder that if you are going to post here, it would be a good idea not to post with the same name as on CARM or give information that would identify you with your identity on CARM. Diane has her spies who read and watch especially this blog.

It is amazing that a group that exposes cults and aberrant movements would resort to milieu control. This tactic conforms to Lifton’s identification of brainwashing and mind control groups. Milieu control is identified as all communication with the outside world is limited, either being strictly filtered or completely cut off. This milieu control also extends outside of CARM as their spies search the internet for any negative word regarding Matt Slick, Diane Sellner or CARM and they report back. Those who dare to challenge any of the strict rules will find themselves cut off from their friends on the discussion board, threatened or censured.

See the post on the "Image Conscious" Element of Spiritual Abuse from Watchman Fellowship.

"Abusive religion is also paranoid."